Doss, James D(aniel) 1939-
DOSS, James D(aniel) 1939-
PERSONAL: Born March 9, 1939, in Reading, PA. Education: Kentucky Wesleyan College, B.S., 1964; University of New Mexico, M.S., 1969. Religion: Episcopalian.
CAREER: Electrical engineer and mystery novelist. Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, staff member, beginning 1964; University of New Mexico School of Medicine, adjunct instructor in radiology and surgery. Holder of fourteen patents in fields of electronics, biomedical engineering, and automotive engineering. Developed radio-frequency electric current method for thermal treatment of tumors, and superconductor characterization.
MEMBER: Mystery Writers of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: IR-100 Award for product development, Industrial Research magazine, 1978; engineer of the year, Los Alamos Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 1980; distinguished performance award, Los Alamos National Laboratory, 1982; distinguished patent award, Los Alamos National Laboratory, 1983.
"CHARLIE MOON" MYSTERY SERIES
The Shaman Sings, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
The Shaman Laughs, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.
The Shaman's Bones, Avon (New York, NY), 1997.
The Shaman's Game, Avon (New York, NY), 1998.
The Night Visitor, Avon (New York, NY), 1999.
Grandmother Spider, Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.
White Shell Woman, Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
Dead Soul, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
The Witch's Tongue, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.
Shadow Man, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2005.
Engineers' Guide to High-Temperature Superconductivity, Wiley (New York, NY), 1989.
Contributor to professional journals.
SIDELIGHTS: James D. Doss spent a distinguished career in the field of electrical engineering, where he specialized in superconductivity and biomedical technology, and then became a successful mystery novelist at the age of fifty-five, when he published his debut book, The Shaman Sings. Doss's popular series is set on a Ute Indian reservation in Colorado and features police detective Charlie Moon, Moon's aunt Daisy Perika, a Native American shaman, and Scott Parris, another detective on the force. Rex E. Klett, reviewing the "Charlie Moon" books for Library Journal, called them "an excellent series," while Bill Ott maintained in Booklist that Doss's novels provide "the most complete treatment of Native American spirituality in the genre."
The initial novel in the "Charlie Moon" series, The Shaman Sings, is set on and near a Ute reservation in Colorado and profits from Doss's intimacy with the Southwest as a longtime staffer at New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory. Superconductivity—another area of the author's expertise—also enters the plot; the murder victim, a graduate student, was working on potentially world-changing research in that field when he met his untimely death. Many critics found Doss to be an exciting new talent in the mystery genre. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called The Shaman Sings one of the best mysteries of 1994, while Washington Post Book World contributor Pat Dowell dubbed the novel "a fantastic read."
The Shaman Sings features detective Scott Parris, a big-city police officer who has taken a job as a small-town Colorado police chief in order to recover from the death of his wife in an accident. Joining Parris in the murder investigation is the shaman of the title, Daisy Perika, a Ute who communicates with the unseen world. The narrative switches through the points of view of many characters, including several suspects and, in Dowell's opinion, keeps the reader guessing even when the narration comes from within the murderer's head. According to Dowell, "The Shaman Sings has a high page-turning quotient, thanks in large part to Doss's vivid characters." The Publishers Weekly reviewer also called the novel "stunning" and an "ambitious, successful debut." A Library Journal contributor voiced similar opinions, concluding that The Shaman Sings is "a finely written first novel."
Doss continues the adventures of Scott Parris and Daisy Perika in several novels, including The Shaman Laughs and The Shaman's Bones. In The Shaman Laughs, Perika's nephew, Ute police officer Charlie Moon, joins Parris and Perika in the investigation of the murder and mutilation of sheep and prize bulls, as well as the equally gruesome murder and dismemberment of a local insurance agent. Aiding Parris, Perika, and Moon are the "pitukupf," Daisy's invisible dwarf spirit-helpers, as well as two agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation: an eccentric profiler named Oswald Oakes and the ultraconservative James Hoover. In The Shaman's Game participants in the reservation's sun dance begin to die mysteriously, moving detective Charlie Moon to investigate.
According to a critic for Publishers Weekly, The Shaman Laughs combines "top-notch procedural drama with Indian spirituality" in a "multilayered" work which Doss executes with "grace and suspense." A Kirkus Reviews contributor expressed a preference for the "dazzling" The Shaman Sings, but called its successor "a remarkably well-crafted portrait of a fascinating corner of America." Marilyn Stasio, writing in the New York Times Book Review, remarked that Doss "writes with a naturalist's scientific precision when he describes the desert" and called the plot of The Shaman Laughs "harrowing."
Grandmother Spider finds a frightening figure from Native American mythology seemingly stalking the reservation and scaring the locals. Moon and Parris are called upon to quell rumors and calm fears while also unraveling the mystery of the strange sightings. According to Ott, "the interplay of characters here . . . is thoroughly entertaining, a spot-on mix of realism and humor." A Kirkus reviewer called Grandmother Spider "every bit as dazzling" as Doss's fiction debut. Praising the novel as a "mysterious and ethereal tale," School Library Journal contributor Trudy Williams added that Doss's "descriptive powers as well as his storyteller's skills and sharp wit make readers feel as if they are there."
In his seventh mystery outing, White Shell Woman, Moon turns to moonlighting as a special tribal investigator as a way to pay the expenses of his second career as a cattle rancher. Taking on a job involving ancient tribal artifacts, he soon finds himself involved in murder when an archeology student is found dead at a controversial dig. In a Booklist review, Bill Ott praised Doss for his "fine comic touch," particularly when pitting Moon's "laconic wit" and rational approach against "flamboyant" Aunt Daisy, who "functions as a kind of cantankerous Greek chorus" by consistently interpreting unexpected occurrences as supernatural phenomena.
Dead Soul finds Moon drawn once more away from his ranching duties when his responsibilities as a special tribal investigator lead him to murder. This time he must sift through the evidence in the murder of a fellow Ute named Billy Smoke, while Aunt Daisy has visions of a missing redheaded co-ed in trouble. Smoke's death somehow involves his job as chauffeur to a U.S. senator, and as espionage and ties to the young woman of Daisy's visions begin to involve themselves, Moon starts to question his own sense of reality. Ranking Doss's series with the works of novelist Tony Hillerman, Booklist reviewer Bill Ott praised Dead Soul as a "potent brew of crime and Native American spirituality."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 1998, John Rowen, review of The Shaman's Game, p. 1974; August, 1999, John Rowen, review of The Night Visitor, p. 2032; May 1, 2000, Bill Ott, review of The Shaman's Game, p. 1594; January 1, 2001, Bill Ott, review of Grandmother Spider, p. 924; January 1, 2002, Bill Ott, review of White Shell Woman, p. 816; September 15, 2003, Bill Ott, review of Dead Soul, p. 214.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1995, review of The Shaman Laughs, p. 1458; August 15, 1998, review of The Shaman's Game, p. 1156; September 15, 1999, review of The Night Visitor, p. 1448; December 1, 2000, review of Grandmother Spider, p. 1645; November 15, 2001, review of White Shell Woman, p. 1581; August 1, 2003, review of Dead Soul, p. 995.
Library Journal, February 1, 1994, review of The Shaman Sings, p. 115; August, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of The Shaman's Game, p. 139; September 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of The Night Visitor, p. 237; April 1, 2000, Dean James, review of The Night Visitor, p. 160; January, 2002, Rex Klett, review of White Shell Woman, p. 158; August, 2003, Rex Klett, review of Dead Soul p. 140.
New York Times Book Review, December 24, 1995, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Shaman Laughs, p. 18; October 3, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Night Visitor, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, December 20, 1993, review of The Shaman Sings, p. 53; October 23, 1995, review of The Shaman Laughs, p. 60; June 29, 1998, review of The Shaman's Game, p. 38; August 2, 1999, review of The Night Visitor, p. 76; November 27, 2000, review of Grandmother Spider, p. 57; December 3, 2001, review of White Shell Woman, p. 43.
School Library Journal, August, 2001, Trudy Williams, review of Grandmother Spider, p. 209.
Washington Post Book World, February 20, 1994, Pat Dowell, review of The Shaman Sings, p. 8.*